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Dumbfounded: Big Money. Big Hair. Big Problems. Or Why Having It All Isn't for Sissies.


“Funny and defiant.” –Los Angeles Times

In the privileged world of old-money New York aristocracy, young Matt Rothschild stuck out like a menorah at a Christmas party. Jewfroed, chubby, and sexually confused, Matt passed time secretly wearing his grandmother’s dresses, shoplifting Barbies from FAO Schwarz, and inventing imaginary midget butlers whom he addressed at dinner parties. Kicked out of nearly every elite school in Manhattan–once for his impersonation of Judy Garland at ...

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“Funny and defiant.” –Los Angeles Times

In the privileged world of old-money New York aristocracy, young Matt Rothschild stuck out like a menorah at a Christmas party. Jewfroed, chubby, and sexually confused, Matt passed time secretly wearing his grandmother’s dresses, shoplifting Barbies from FAO Schwarz, and inventing imaginary midget butlers whom he addressed at dinner parties. Kicked out of nearly every elite school in Manhattan–once for his impersonation of Judy Garland at a recital–Matt knew his days in his nineteen-room Fifth Avenue apartment were numbered.

But just when it looked as if Matt was about to drown in a sea of Paris Hilton wannabes, his grandmother Sophie, a glamorous, potty-mouthed dowager in killer stilettos, steps in, dismisses the nanny, and decides to raise him herself. Seeing her grandson’s upbringing as a way to atone for the mistakes she made as a mother, Sophie takes his hand and guides him through their world of name-dropping phonies, family connections, and children who have to raise themselves. Gradually, Sophie allows Matt to learn the truth about the mother who left him, the woman who raised him, and the challenges we all face, no matter how exclusive or unusual our origins may seem.

Matt Rothschild tells his story with humor, candor, and unlikely compassion for his eccentric relatives–including his mother–in this bitingly entertaining and unexpectedly tender memoir.

“With genuine affection and brutal honesty, [Rothschild] paints vivid, delightful portraits of the colorful characters who crossed his path.” –USA Today

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Funny and defiant”
The Los Angeles Times

“A family dysfunction story at its best…The former trustifarian’s portrayal of his bold and brash, potty-mouth grandma is a hoot...”
The Washington Post

“With genuine affection and brutal honesty, [Rothschild] paints vivid, delightful portraits of the colorful characters who crossed his path...”
USA Today

“Rothschild is a master storyteller of misadventures and emotional drama. He effortlessly allows readers to see events from his perspective, drawing them into his court and making them his advocates.”
Rocky Mountain News

“The book is delightful and funny—with smelly old people, embarrassing talent show routines and an imaginary midget butler—and reading it is the literary equivalent of spending a Saturday afternoon on the couch, watching an engrossing television program.”
The Nashville Scene

“Touching, biting, and honest, Rothschild recalls every child’s search for identity, rebellion against common sense, and the quest for love that has always been there. Humor, compassion, a man who refuses to ride a white Rolls-Royce after Labor Day, and a chubby Judy Garland impersonator with a Jewfro. What’s there not to love?”
—Annie Choi, author of Happy Birthday or Whatever

“Matt Rothschild’s hilarious, irreverent memoir of family dysfunction is so smart and true, with characters so wonderfully drawn, that, frankly, when it looked like things would turn out okay for the writer in the end, I was heartbroken.”
—Cynthia Kaplan, author of Why I’m Like This and Leave the Building Quickly

“How does the old joke go? ‘Some of my best friends are Rothschilds’? Well, after reading this playful, heartfelt charmer of a book, packed with Vanity Fair–worthy anecdotes of the wondrous ways the other half lives, you’ll wish Matt Rothschild really was your best friend! Call me, Matt! I miss you already!”
—Robert Leleux, author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy

Publishers Weekly

Rothschild, a writer and high school teacher living in Florida, was abandoned by his mother and raised by his grandparents, a retired Jewish couple living in "the most exclusive building in the most exclusive neighborhood" of New York City. The setting is sitcom-perfect, from the headstrong grandmother and exasperated grandfather to the wisecracking servants, and Rothschild's youthful acting out offers much opportunity for humor. At one point, his behavior was so out of hand that one of the few private schools he hadn't been asked to leave would accept him only if his grandparents donated one of their Van Goghs as well. But all is not happy: an early attempt by his mother to reunite the family ends in disaster, and her selfish behavior forces him to care for his Alzheimer's-stricken grandmother while still a teenager. Rothschild has been through a lot, and he's an able storyteller, easily drawing readers' sympathy by layering the emotional drama. If his story seems incomplete, that's probably because it is-the final break with his mother would, from an older author, be the midpoint at which Rothschild turns his life around, but this memoir ends with just the first glimmers of an optimistic future. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Here's a notable but hardly atypical scene from first-time memoirist Rothschild's poor-little-rich-boy story: overwrought, 13-year-old Matt runs away from home with a $100 bill and a box of rat poison. When the poison fails to do him in, he takes a cab to Times Square to ask the prostitutes whether he's gay. He gets an answer, gets relieved of his remaining cash, and gets sent back home to face his grandparents, who address the situation by buying Matt a puppy. Clearly, Rothschild has quite a story to tell. Abandoned by his jet-setting mother, he's raised by her indelibly portrayed odd-couple parents: Matt's feisty, irrepressibly opinionated grandmother and storytelling, class-conscious grandfather, the only Jewish family in an exclusive building on Manhattan's East Side. Enduring a childhood of privilege and self-doubt, Matt is dismissed from one elite school after another, befriends a neighbor girl who convinces him to steal bagsful of Barbies from F.A.O Schwarz, and struggles with his weight, his sexuality, and especially his breathtakingly wealthy-and stunningly dysfunctional-family. Rothschild's style serves his story well. Reminiscent of David Sedaris, he is by turns whimsical and brutal, self-involved and self-deprecating. A strong debut; recommended for public libraries.
—Janet Ingraham Dwyer

Kirkus Reviews
Growing up heavy, Jewish and effeminate on the Upper East Side. Rothschild's dialogue is so sassy, his characters' exits so perfectly executed, that the average reader might be forgiven for assuming his sparklingly witty debut memoir was the draft script for a new HBO series on dysfunctional family life. His mother, a flighty sort given to jetting about overseas and marrying various aristocratic playboys, handed off infant Matthew to her richer-than-Croesus parents. Although practically the only child of noticeably Semitic persuasion in his exclusive corner of Manhattan, he was blessed with a glamorous, globetrotting, bellowing dragon of a grandmother, the book's most intriguing character. Easily overpowering everyone (including his genteel Old World grandfather), she was always doing things like running off to Asia to shoot photographs for six months or storming into his grade school to curse out a teacher who tried to pressure him into being photographed in front of a Christmas tree. ("I'll drop-kick his Santa-loving ass from here to Macy's," she declared.) Heavy-set and with a predilection for dressing in women's clothes, Rothschild wasn't exactly the most popular kid, but his relatively normal adolescent issues get a Dynasty-like kick from his mother's neglect and the stink of vast wealth enveloping the whole family. Feeling like "the hangnail on the manicured hand of the Upper East Side," he got through by playing extreme make-believe and gossiping up a storm. He eventually achieved some stability by moving out of Manhattan, but once away from the family circus, Rothschild's narrative shows some slackness. (His coming to terms with his homosexuality seems particularly perfunctory.) Asection about the author discovering his Jewish faith at college, then haranguing his mother for her lack of belief, is ugly enough to dissipate some of the sympathy prompted by his travails in earlier chapters. Bumpy, but both snappy and deeply felt. Agent: Daniel Lazar/Writers House
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307405432
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/4/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

MATT ROTHSCHILD currently lives on the cusp of gentrification in Orlando, Florida, with his adopted boxer, Baron (the only dog who’s ever loved him). He teaches English and journalism at an urban high school.

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Table of Contents

1 Why I Don't Believe in Santa Claus 1

2 China Girl 14

3 All in the D's 27

4 The Petty Thieves 46

5 In My Grandmother's Closet 65

6 Jude the Obscure 81

7 Visiting Mother 96

8 Call Me Pathological 121

9 Greta Garbo Lives Next Door 136

10 The Wandering Jew 153

11 Damn Static 164

12 Intrafamily Feud 172

13 It's Nothing Personal 189

14 Howard's End 212

15 Judaism for Dummies 232

16 Driving Miss Sophie 242

17 100 Percent, Grade-A Hebrews 266

18 Can I Call You Daddy? 284

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 8, 2012

    Laugh Out Loud Funny! Dumbfounded is an amusing memoir about you

    Laugh Out Loud Funny!
    Dumbfounded is an amusing memoir about young Matt Rothschild and his family’s crazy dysfunction. Growing up in up-scale New York and living with his grandparents, Matt, was a chunky, Jewfroed, sexually confused boy. At every turn of the page Matt continued to surprise and entertain, whether he dressed up in his grandmother’s dresses, shoplifted Barbies from FAO Schwarz, created an imaginary butler to address at dinner parties, or being kicked out of every elite school in Manhattan. Rothschild concentrates on the theme of the crucial search for a child’s own identity and the need for rebellion against common sense. I loved reading about the colorful characters he came across throughout his childhood, like his blunt grandmother and his quirky unreliable mother.
    The outlandish circumstances Rothschild experienced were just as enjoyable as the characters; after one family reunion it becomes completely obvious why his family avoids “get-togethers” with his relatives. To be perfectly honest, the only thing that disappointed me about this book was the way it ended. I remember finishing the last page and thinking to myself “That’s it?” It ended to abruptly for my liking and I was left wanting to know more. I definitely would recommend reading this book, Rothschild is brilliant and captivates you with his stories. Dumbfounded is a charming and unforgettable read and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. My overall rating for this book on a scale from one to ten would be a nine. If you enjoy this book, other books you may like are, Trainwreck: My Life as an Idiot by Jeff Nichols or Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler by Wade Rouse.

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  • Posted October 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Cat for

    So you think being raised by wealthy Jewish grandparents in a Fifth Avenue apartment, twelve years of prep and boarding schools, regular trips to FAO Schwartz, chauffeured limousines, or visiting Mom at her husband's Italian villa also means a life on easy street? <BR/><BR/>Then you haven't read Matt Rothschild's family memoir, DUMBFOUNDED. <BR/><BR/>In his memoir, Matt paints a lush and detailed portrait of life as a complex, awkward outsider in a world that demands conformity and simple definition. Despite growing up in a completely different environment, I felt a constant sense of familiarity and kinship with Matt, whether he was describing the painful silence that greeted his a capella rendition of "Get Happy" for the sixth-grade talent show, spinning tales of his midget butler, Little Saigon, in the hopes of pleasing his fickle grandmother, or confronting an ever-increasing awareness that his sexuality might not fit society's definition of "normal." <BR/><BR/>Matt's story runs the gamut of human emotion from laugh-out-loud hilarity to chest-aching heartbreak. DUMBFOUNDED is first and foremost a book about people, and it reminds us that once stripped of all our ideological constructs (wealth, race, faith, gender, orientation, nationality, etc.), at our core, we're all pretty much the same.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2008

    No white Rolls Royces After Labor Day !!!

    Learn these 'aristo' tips & more in this ADDICTIVELY laugh-out-loud debut novel. I started this book & couldn't put it down...As someone who loves men who love Judy Garland & who lives in Vero Beach, Fl surrounded by the 'ladies who lunch' crowd this novel hit home. I read more than your average bear & I can honestly say that this is the best book I have read in years! A perfect read, especially those nights when everything on tv is as non-sensical as Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin preaching abstinence. Now if only Hollywood would option the rights....I can see Matt playing himself with me as his hairdresser. Of course a flatiron & straightening gel would simply HAVE to be included in the budget due to the Jewfro. PS: my dog Beauregard the Beagle loved the author photo featuring Matt with his adopted boxer. The dog's name? Why Baron, of course!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2008

    Great Read!

    I highly recommend this book to any reader in the mood for an easy read with a great comical and sarcastic undertone. Very well written. The characters come to life throughout each page. I couldn't put the book down.

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    Posted October 2, 2009

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    Posted October 19, 2008

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